Outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge said it without further ado on Friday: if everyone had been vaccinated, we would now have no problem in the hospitals. Especially in the three major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, the number of vaccines has lagged behind the national average. And that is why the GGDs in these cities are trying with all their might to get people to get the vaccine in an accessible way.
According to Anette de Boer, public health director of the GGD Haaglanden, it certainly makes sense to prick “finely meshed”, as the GGD calls it. “I don’t think we will get to 100 percent because of this. But every shot counts.”
Pray first, then poke
In the Turkish Islamic Cultural Center (TICS) in The Hague, they notice every day that people in the neighborhood are reluctant to vaccinate. “Today I was texted again by a son of a man who had to be put into a coma in the ICU. He begs me for help for his father and already wanted us to arrange a funeral,” says foundation chairman Tahsin Çetinkaya.
Full of conviction, he has been ensuring for months that the GGD comes to vaccinate on Friday after prayer. Local residents can walk in without an appointment.
And it helps, sees Çetinkaya. “For most people, the information from the government did not reach them, for example because they do not speak Dutch. Moreover, there were all kinds of rumors in the community. For example, that you could become infertile from the jab. After we had invited all young people , 95 percent suddenly had themselves vaccinated.”
While many people are now signing up for a booster shot, some 1.2 million people are still not vaccinated at all. Most live in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague. Or in heavily Christian congregations.
The vaccination rate among adults is about 84 percent throughout the Netherlands. In the three major cities it is between 70 and 75 percent.
The willingness to vaccinate is particularly low in neighborhoods with many residents with a migration background. But not every unvaccinated person is a real refusal, according to research by the Ministry of Health. So there is still a lot to gain in those areas.
GGD member De Boer also notices this. “The unvaccinated here often have a language delay and have therefore not received the correct information. That is why we must do everything we can to reach them.”
‘Should have campaigned earlier’
That is why doctors in the three major cities also take to the streets every week to persuade people. Via the online platform Health Gap they call on each other to participate in this campaign.
According to one of the initiators, doctor Amelie Girbes, it is really worth the effort to persuade people. “You can’t reach the real opponents, but you manage to convince people every day. They may not trust the government, but they often listen to us.”
TICS chairman Çetinkaya thinks it would have helped if earlier campaigns had been conducted in the neighborhoods where the suspicion is now greatest. “We’ve all learned from it.”
They try to boost the injection: ‘Not all doubters are against’
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